Tonight is the start of the Western Conference Finals, better known as the Okie vs. Texan showdown as my astute friend William Wallace wrote:
“As for a Conference Finals story line? It can’t get much better than Dallas and OKC, or Texas v. Oklahoma. If you don’t know, the cultural, social, and especially sports rivalries between these two states can match the best of the best; think Yanks-Sox in baseball if those teams played each other in the game of life. Texans don’t like Okies, and Okies don’t like Texans.”
Enough with the sociological importance behind the game, what about the actual fvckin’ basketball being played?!
Will Dallas stay away from their zone defense, and guard the more athletic Thunder straight up? The thought of 38 year-old (geriatric in NBA speak) Jason Kidd guarding the turbo-charged Russell Westbrook for at least 4 games must send shivers down the spines of Mavs fans.
Who guards Dirk? There’s basically no one who can match-up with him, and even the 6’9” Kevin Durant is at a height disadvantage; even though, Durant is quick enough to prevent Dirk’s twisting curl from the high block for a lay-up. Also, will OKC want to sacrifice Durant’s offensive energy so he can match-up against Dirk?
Will Jose Barea destroy the Thunder like he did Los Angeles? Who is quick enough for him? Westbrook is certainly strong enough, but can he move laterally fast enough to stay in front?
In terms of the paint area, we’ve got Serge Ibaka and newly vocal team-leader-in-training Kendrick Perkins matched up against Tyson Chandler and Brenden Heyward; although, Ian Mahinmi is always a delight, I don’t see him getting any PT. Nick Collison figures in there somewhere, I just don’t know where yet. Ibaka and Perkins seem strong enough to defend the offensively woeful big men of Dallas, but can they control the boards?
And what about Jason “Jet part deux” Terry? Will be be spreading his arms like some sort of wiry cosmonaut? Will he shred opposing OKC guards like Westbrook, Harden, Sefolosha, and Maynor with his patented drive right pull up jumper from inside the line?
Is James Harden the player OKC thought when they passed on Stephon Curry and picked him up a couple years ago?
So many questions. So few answers. I’m shaking a little because we’re finally down to the final four, and they’re all so new I have no idea what’s going to happen. This, I think, is a good thing. Unless you’re betting.
I think it will be a close game tonight with Dallas winning in the end because of Dirk. Durant isn’t there yet, and Dirk’s seen just about everything in his storied career.
Some more Western Conference Previews:
[pic via Tim Heitman/NBAE/Getty Images]